We’ll start off today wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day and maybe this will serve as a reminder for those that may have forgot! Before I forget, the update will take a day off on Monday in observance of Presidents’ Day.
Today however, we report on a deal to land 200 million more vaccine doses, Biden’s budget delay, talk of rapid Covid tests reemerge, and what Illinois could expect from the aid package.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
U.S. Strikes Deals for 200 Million More Covid-19 Vaccine Doses
President Biden said the U.S. has struck deals to purchase 200 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses, following a pledge in January to boost the number of shots available for Americans.
Biden said in a speech at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., that the U.S. signed contracts with Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. that require each company to provide an additional 100 million vaccine doses. “We have to stay vigilant, we have to stay focused and for God’s sake, we have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America. We can do this,” the President said.
The additional vaccines will bring the total number of doses ordered by the U.S. from the two companies to 600 million from 400 million. The administration said in January that it was working on the purchases, which would provide enough supply to vaccinate 300 million Americans in a two-dose regimen, covering all individuals in the U.S. currently eligible to receive the vaccine. The vaccine hasn’t been approved for people under 16 years old.
The U.S. also has supply contracts with other companies, including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca PLC and Novavax Inc. to provide a combined 500 million doses. These vaccines haven’t been cleared by regulators, although J&J’s is currently under view for emergency use.
It will take months for the majority of the public to get vaccinated, but President Biden said the companies agreed to speed up their deliveries. The President said enough doses would be available to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of July. The administration previously had said they would be available by the end of the summer. Mr. Biden expressed frustration about what he said was a lack of information-sharing about the vaccine from the Trump administration during the presidential transition.
State Outlook if Covid Relief Bill Passes
Illinois could get $7.5 billion in federal funding from the latest Covid relief bill being considered in Congress. As it’s written now, the measure could also provide $5.7 billion to Illinois municipalities, as well as separate relief checks to individuals.
“I think finally we’re looking at a package that has a good chance of passing and will deliver a lot of relief to a lot of municipalities, counties and state government,” Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, told Playbook. Krishnamoorthi, Reps. Robin Kelly and Danny Davis sit on the House Oversight and Reform Committee charged with mapping out the relief package. The stimulus package allocates $350 billion in funding to states, localities, tribes, and territories.
The package will be debated Friday in the House committee. There’s expected to be a long discussion with a vote that could occur later in the evening. Krishnamoorthi acknowledges he “hasn’t seen the enthusiasm” he’d like from Republicans. But that could change as lawmakers see polling that shows Americans support the relief package.
A new CBS News poll shows a large and bipartisan majority of Americans — 83 percent — would support congressional passage of a new stimulus bill to help those impacted by the pandemic, and many would prefer that it receives bipartisan support in Congress, too.
Governor Pritzker’s office is hopeful the funding package comes through, though “we can’t bank on it” for the state budget, said spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. The governor will present his budget next week and it will be based, as is required by the state Constitution, on existing forms of revenue. Any stimulus funding will have parameters and rules for what the money can be used for, added Abudayyeh. “The good news is that they’re going to give money for revenue replacement.”
Biden’s First Budget Proposal Will Be Delayed
President Biden’s first budget proposal will be delayed, the White House said Wednesday, citing a lack of cooperation during the transition from budget staff in former President Donald Trump’s administration.
“There were some challenges that came about during the transition in terms of a bit of intransigence from the outgoing administration and lack of cooperation as it related to [the Office of Management and Budget] and the budget process, so we expect there to be a delay in the release of his first budget,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a Wednesday briefing with reporters. She declined to say when the budget would be released or in what form.
Biden’s advisers raised concerns publicly in December that staff in Mr. Trump’s budget office had rebuffed requests for information necessary to help them prepare to take over the government. Yohannes Abraham, then a senior Biden transition official, said OMB officials hadn’t shared sufficient details on “Covid-related expenditures” and were refusing to work with the incoming administration on developing a budget.
An OMB spokesman said at the time the department had provided Mr. Biden’s team with “everything they have requested,” including briefings on the government’s initiative to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine. The spokesman added that it was “not an OMB transition responsibility” to help Mr. Biden’s team draft budget proposals. Mr. Abraham said such collaboration had occurred in the previous two presidential transitions.
Russ Vought, who was Mr. Trump’s OMB director, said that most presidents’ first budgets are late. “That said, OMB worked with the Biden transition team, but there is only one president at a time and it was not our job to draft their budget,” he said.
Presidents usually submit their budget requests to Congress between January and February each year. But budget proposals are often delayed during the first year of a new administration.
In their first years in office, recent presidents have typically submitted broad overviews of their budget priorities to Congress, followed by a joint address to lawmakers. The written overview is usually submitted in February, though Mr. Trump didn’t submit his first one until March, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
A more detailed budget proposal is then submitted to Congress months later, often in April or May, the CRS report said. Neera Tanden, Mr. Biden’s nominee to lead OMB, hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate. Two Senate committees held confirmation hearings on her nomination this week.
Illinois Public Health Officials Questioned by State Senators on Vaccine Rollout
State senators questioned public health officials regarding the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts in a Thursday hearing, one day after Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the state would expand vaccine eligibility under Phase 1B by Feb. 25.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and Deputy Director Andrew Friend testified before the committee in a more than three-hour hearing, noting the state faces significant challenges in meeting vaccine demand with limited federal supply. “Our greatest challenge is that we don’t have enough doses to satisfy all of the people that need it, want it, and that are eligible,” Ezike told the committee.
As of Thursday, Illinois has administered over 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, with 2.72 percent of the population having received both required doses. Ezike said the state is currently receiving approximately 280,000 vaccine doses per week, a number that she expects will steadily increase as the federal government works to ramp up production. Until then, Ezike stressed continued patience and noted the state will aim to distribute the vaccine as quickly as it arrives.
“What we need from you and our partners is to be able to share this message of patience,” Ezike said. “We knew six months ago that the doses would be limited in the beginning.”
Some senators questioned why the state saw a lag when compared to other states in its initial per capita vaccination efforts. Illinois had previously ranked as low as 47th in vaccines issued per capita three weeks ago according to data from the New York Times. The state has since improved to 29th nationwide, according to that database, and is now issuing vaccines at a quicker pace than it is receiving them.
Friend attributed the initial lag in numbers to requests from local public health departments to stay in Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan longer than other states. “We just wanted to be there to support them in that regard, and also ensure that everyone in 1A that could get addressed before we shifted to Phase 1B,” Friend said.
Phase 1A included frontline health care workers and long-term care residents, while Phase 1B initially included non-health care frontline workers, people aged 65 and older and inmates. The Phase 1B expansion projected to occur on or before Feb. 25 will include residents aged 16 and older with underlying conditions, comorbidities, and disabilities.
Friend said the state is fully prepared to administer vaccines at a mass scale as soon as supply thresholds from the federal government are increased. Mass vaccination efforts can begin once the state reaches approximately 900,000 dose deliveries per week, he said. “Until we get to that point, we’re busy building that capacity and capability across the state so as that vaccine increases, we can get it to as many people as possible,” Friend said.
Friend said that state officials have been routinely briefed on the status of vaccine production at the federal level. The state has also secured support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the administration of vaccines, including $25 million in federal dollars to be directed to local health departments to assist their vaccination efforts. Ezike and Friend said that the number of doses available to states has increased by nearly 30 percent in recent weeks.
As a result, Friend said, the state is now able to provide projections of delivery quantities as early as three weeks out to local health departments, which will also help local officials adequately gauge how many vaccination appointments they can offer. Friend said the state will continue to aim for equity in access to vaccines, including providing support from the Illinois National Guard for sites that may not have enough staff to carry out vaccination efforts.
“When we say equity, that’s across the entire state,” Friend said. “From the cities to the rural areas that don’t have the infrastructure and support, we intend to get access to every Illinoisan no matter where you’re at in the state.”
Rapid Covid Test Jump-Start?
President Biden is raising hopes that he will sharply scale up rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to help control the pandemic, but advocates say far more needs to be done beyond the administration’s early moves.
A vocal group of health experts has been pushing for months to ramp up production of cheap and simple tests that people can use multiple times a week and get results in a matter of minutes, helping the country safely return to work and school until vaccines are widely available.
While Biden has earned praise for taking some initial steps on production, some experts warn that much more is needed if the goal is to have households across the U.S. taking quick tests multiple times a week, especially for regular social events like meeting up with friends.
“The country is well behind where we need to be on testing, particularly the rapid at-home tests that will allow us all to get back to normal activities like work and school,” Tim Manning, the Biden team’s COVID-19 supply coordinator, said at a briefing last week when announcing that the administration will use the Defense Production Act to accelerate manufacturing of the kits.
The administration said the move will allow 61 million at-home or point-of-care tests to be available by the end of the summer. In addition, the White House awarded a $230 million contract to boost the number of rapid tests in circulation, though many of them won’t be available until the second half of the year.
Michael Mina, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who has been leading the push for rapid tests, said simpler, cheaper tests are needed to scale up faster and in much higher numbers, to as many as 20 million per day. He praised the administration for last week’s announcements, while adding: “Both fall quite short of anything that I’ve been discussing. But I believe it means that they are willing to try.”
Many of the cheaper, simpler, and more plentiful rapid tests that advocates like Mina are pushing for are not yet authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That has led to an intense debate over whether the FDA is a roadblock to more widespread at-home testing, or if it is simply doing its job by waiting to make sure there is adequate data supporting the tests and that any accuracy concerns are addressed.
Program Notices & Reminders
Upcoming Discussions with Illinois DCEO and SBA District Office
SBA Webinar with Stephen Konkle (SBA) and Joe McKeown (DCEO)
Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Regional Economic Development and special guest Stephen Konkle with the US Small Business Administration for a webinar to learn more about the US Small Business Administration’s Federal Paycheck Protection Program and several others. This federal PPP forgivable COVID-19 Relief Loan Program will help Illinois small businesses keep their employees on payroll during this unprecedented time.
Date and time: Friday, February 19, 2021 1:00 PM / Register here:
Discussion with DCEO Director, Erin Guthrie & SBA on PPP
Join this webinar to be a part of the discussion with DCEO (Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) Director, Erin Guthrie & the SBA (Small Business Administration) District Director, Robert Steiner on PPP (Payroll Protection Program) and other relevant topics.
Date and time: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 2:00 PM / Register here:
SBA Page Links for Direction and Questions on PPP
1st draw info: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program/first-draw-ppp-loans
First draw app: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form-2483-paycheck-protection-program-borrower-application-form?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
2nd draw info: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program/second-draw-ppp-loans
Second draw app: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form-2483-sd-ppp-second-draw-borrower-application-form?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
Finally, please join the Joliet Chamber for a virtual conference with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk as he delivers a review of 2020, updates on present City of Joliet projects, and what to expect in the future. On Tuesday, February 23rd, Mayor O’Dekirk will deliver the annual State of the City Address at 11 am. Click here to register: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-webinar-state-of-the-city-address-6015
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry